If you are married, it is a good idea not to expect much of your spouse.
That may sound pessimistic and cynical, but it’s not. It has nothing to do with doubts about the character of your spouse. Even if your spouse is phenomenal (as mine happens to be), marriage is better for both partners if you don’t adopt an attitude that says, “you should always do this for me because you’ve done it before.”
Well, my husband goes above and beyond to serve, love, and bless me. And I love it—it’s wonderful. But if I decide in my heart that those things are just what he ought to do, I become unable to see them for the gifts that they are. His exceptional acts of love and service become little more than what I am entitled to as his wife. And if, for some reason, he ever falls short of what I’ve come to expect, I will be put out and irritated.
It is easy to raise the bar of expectation to match our experience, but if we intentionally refuse to do this, we are in a much better position to appreciate gifts of love for what they are—gifts.
This principle also applies to our relationship with God. Because we enjoy His goodness all the time, we often just don’t see it for what it is. We come to expect that we will (and should) experience blessing and comfort in all the ways we’ve grown accustomed to experiencing them. We don’t appreciate the lavishness with which He routinely blesses us—and if it is ever taken away, we throw a spoiled fit.
I found myself having the occasional tantrum this summer. I experienced the pressure of substantial debt (in the form of school loans) for the first time in my life. The post college job search did not go well for my husband. Weeks and then months went by with dead ends or no leads at all. God did provide for us, but it felt like it was always just in the nick of time and just enough to keep our heads from going completely under—never enough to get us out of the uncomfortably hot water. No matter how much we prayed, we just had no sense of where He was taking us. Honestly, sometimes I feared that He wasn’t taking us anywhere.
Why aren’t you doing anything, God? Where’s my comfort, my security, my cushion? Aren’t you supposed to be rescuing me from this discomfort like you usually do?
As it turns out, we can easily see now that all of those uncomfortable circumstances put us in a position to look in the right place and find the open door, leading to exactly where He wants us to be.
And guess what? It is far better than anything we imagined for ourselves. As soon as we were in the right place, things began coming together for us like crazy. My husband has fulfilling and meaningful work, lots of resources to do it with, and colleagues that he already respects and loves. The compensation will allow us to pay off those loans much faster than we had anticipated. A nice home with very affordable rent has already opened up for us. Our new church family has been supportive and affirming.
Now, I did have a spoiled fit or two (or three, or four), but the struggle of these last few months ultimately put me in a place where I could really see the generous blessings of God when they came. When some (and only some) of the lavishness I enjoy on a regular basis was temporarily stripped away, I was forced to recognize that I wasn’t owed those things. I developed new eyes.
I am not suggesting that we should have no expectation for God to do great things. He can, does, and will. It is in His character to be good and generous, but it does not follow that I should assume I am entitled to anything.
It is only appropriate to be humble and thankful before our great and amazing God. But, can I tell you?—it is also the only way to see His precious, beautiful, and sacred gifts for what they really are!
Luke 14:8-11 (NASB) 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”